I had a bit of the latest C&H story written and ready, but this flashback just occurred so I figured I’d autobiograph at you a bit. This anecdote is about me, when I was Hatboy – way back in the wild and grungy ’90s.
Did you realise, in a few short years it’s going to be the ’20s again? That’s going to be all sorts of awesome, I already wear waistcoats and have a bowler hat. I’m basically set.
Anyway, back in the ’90s I was a university student doing a Creative Writing major with an elective in Literature, Language and Culture, neither of which were destined to get me anywhere whatsoever. Aside from the occasional gig as a wedding or funeral piper, I worked night-shift at a supermarket, restocking the shelves for booze money.
I mostly did pet food, although I did quite a bit of fruit juice and stuff too. I was unpopular, and in retrospect I’m pretty sure they assigned me to the heaviest produce. I would usually start work a bit earlier, before actual closing time, and the rest of the crew would come in later and carry on. Pet food was the sort of thing you could just start to restock while there were customers milling around.
One such customer (and this is why I think the Kevin Smith movie Clerks struck such a chord with me and my peers), I nicknamed Metrelong.
Metrelong was an old guy, in his late 70s or early 80s. At least, he seemed that old to Teenage Hatboy. He came to the pet food aisle, usually only on the days I came and restocked, and bought up practically an entire shelf of food. It was always the same flavour, the purple tins with tuna flavoured cat food. I always had to re-restock after he’d been by.
 My fellow pet food restocker and I had a whole complex theory of food label colouring that basically earned me no extra credit in my marketing unit at university. Chicken was always yellow. Tuna was usually purple, and of course beef was red. There were green tins, they usually had some sort of lamb in them – for human food, green was vegetables of some sort. It’s not actually all that profound when you think about it. But I made you read it anyway, and isn’t that a kind of truth?
Metrelong told me that he had a cat that only ate that flavour of cat food. Wouldn’t touch any other flavour, he said. And this cat, he explained in great and unnecessary detail, was a metre long. When it stood on its hind legs, he said, it could reach the door knob.
It didn’t take much of this story, which was just plausible enough to be true but repeated so mechanically it could only be a lie, to convince me that Metrelong did not have a cat. The truth was, the tuna flavoured cat food was the closest – in terms of smell and taste – to actual tuna in a can, without being as expensive as tuna in a can. Or indeed basically any human food. Which he could not afford, because he was a pensioner. He was buying the cat food for himself, and telling us this elaborate story about his metre-long cat just in case we suspected he was buying it for himself.
This was a solid twenty years ago. Even if Metrelong really did have a cat, it’s definitely dead now. So, in likely point of fact, is Metrelong himself. Both of these facts are a little bit sad, because he was a nice old guy and I sure would have liked to see that cat of his open a door like some sort of little furry velociraptor.
Have a nice Monday.